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Ideas and technologies

Multidisciplinary research projects benefit from nearly $500,000 federal investment

By Jeff Green

The world’s first interactive mobile platform to connect global experts and small-scale fisheries communities is among four diverse projects benefitting from nearly $500,000 in federal funding.

Researchers based in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Archaeology successfully secured a total of $480,000 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and a tri-agency program.

The investments come from the Knowledge Synthesis Grants: Living Within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity, funding for SSHRC postdoctoral fellows and the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF).

An initiative of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, NFRF is managed as a tri-agency program on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC.

“This most recent investment speaks to the high-calibre multidisciplinary research being led by Memorial that will benefit people around the globe,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“I congratulate our scholars on securing their funding and wish them well with their individual projects. I also thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Government of Canada for their continued and longstanding support of our university’s strong and innovative research.”

Addressing social injustice

Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, University Research Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, University Research Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is receiving $250,000 from the New Frontiers in Research Fund to create the world’s first interactive, web-based, mobile platform to connect experts, practitioners and those involved in small-scale fisheries.

“We want to learn about what makes small-scale fisheries vulnerable and marginalized, as well as how small-scale fishing people respond to the situations, hoping to gather these lessons to help us improve policy and governance for the betterment of small-scale fishing people of the world,” Dr. Chuenpagdee told the Gazette.

She says it is an exciting time for transdisciplinary research on small-scale fisheries.

“The impact of COVID-19 on fisheries suggests that small-scale fisheries may indeed be the solution for fisheries sustainability, for local food security and for securing jobs and employment for local communities,” she added. “Thus, it is a good opportunity to think about how we might want to reform fisheries post-COVID.”

‘Extremely valuable’

Dr. Atanu Sarkar
Dr. Atanu Sarkar
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Atanu Sarkar, associate professor, environmental/occupational health, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, secured $50,000 from the Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition for Living Within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity.

He is examining the contamination of marine ecosystems by persistent organic pollutants (POPs) originating from landfills, current waste management practices, public perceptions and sustainable solutions.

“The knowledge will help to develop sustainable strategies to reduce ocean pollution.” — Dr. Atanu Sarkar

According to Dr. Sarkar, POPs are chemicals of global concern due to their persistence in the environment and their significant negative effects on human health.

“Apart from industrial effluents, runoffs from landfills are believed to be the major sources of POPs in marine food webs,” he explained. “Despite several studies showing leachates and landfill runoffs as potential sources of POPs in marine food webs, almost no major policy discourse has addressed them at the national or global level.”

He says he hopes his research will encourage green industries to incorporate alternative methods of landfill management in sustainable business models.

Dr. Sarkar adds SSHRC’s funding is “extremely valuable for future research. The knowledge will help to develop sustainable strategies to reduce ocean pollution.”

Postdoctoral scholar funding

Dr. Susane M. Havelka
Dr. Susane M. Havelka
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Susane M. Havelka, a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was awarded $90,000 from the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships: September 2019 Competition.

“My current research interests lie at the intersection of housing, community engagement and user-generated cold-climate building techniques,” said Dr. Havelka, who works with Dr. Julia Christensen, Canada Research Chair in Northern Governance and Public Policy.

“Housing insecurity, unaffordable construction costs and overcrowding in the Canadian North are undeniably a public policy priority in Canada,” added Dr. Havelka, a graduate of MIT, Columbia University and McGill University.

She will involve northern communities as part of her research, with a particular emphasis on their lived-experience and local needs.

“I will also train Indigenous students to contribute to the research and will secure adequate support to allow these novice researchers to engage with their home communities,” she added.

“By collecting input towards the development of appropriate housing design innovations both in terms of the design, the physical planning and the building, this project will examine approaches to self-build within Canada and offer comparative insights into self-built housing contexts and cultures.”

Additionally, Alison J.T. Harris, a Memorial alumna who is completing her PhD at Stockholm University and the University of York, will return to Memorial in September as a postdoctoral fellow.

She will join the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

She was awarded $90,000 from the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships: September 2019 Competition, for her project, Historical Breastfeeding Practices in Atlantic Canada: Insights from Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Analysis of Dental Collagen and Amino Acids.


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